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Commissioners Court plans to put a bond issue on the ballot

First one in seven years.

Harris County voters will have more on their November ballot, after a divided commissioners court Tuesday took the first step toward a $1.2 billion bond package for police, parks, drainage and roads.

Common with many votes, the court was split 3-2 on the matter, with County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia in favor and Tom Ramsey and Jack Cagle opposed.

Tuesday’s debate reiterated much of what divided county officials leading up to the vote, including the ability to put a robust plan in front of voters by November, concerns about future needs such as flood control and how exactly officials would split the windfall of money should voters approve.

The plan would likely lead to three bond votes on the ballot — $100 million for public safety, $200 million for parks and $900 million for transportation and drainage projects ranging from street maintenance to sidewalks and safety-related road repairs.

“People want to see that money spent yesterday,” Garcia said, noting the litany of improvements county residents are demanding.

Tuesday’s vote moved the county closer to a bond referendum, but did not finalize it. To call the election and set it for the November election, commissioners court must meet and call for the election between Aug. 12 and Aug. 22, per state law. They must also approve ballot language, which will guide the terms of the bond.

[…]

Though split on the plan, no one disputed Harris County has massive needs across a host of categories.

“I think people are clamoring for more capital investments,” Ellis said.

Local roads are in disrepair, drainage worries dot unincorporated communities who remember rising waters from Tropical Storm Harvey and Tropical Storm Imelda all too well and sheriffs operate out of outdated and crumbling buildings.

Voters “don’t need to be sold on flood control, roads and public safety,” said State Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, who spoke Tuesday in favor of the bonds.

Commissioners, however, struggled to find common ground on how they would share the money. Ellis and Garcia pressed for a “worst-first” approach that would focus funding in areas they said were previously neglected in their Precinct One and Precinct Two areas, and away from doling the money based on population and lane miles of road. Ramsey and Cagle, concerned about the inequity of that plan, said some equal divisions were needed so Precinct Three and Precinct Four could make needed repairs.

To satisfy her own concerns that funds needed to address problem areas but fairly include projects in each commissioners’ area, Hidalgo proposed the $100 million in public safety remain countywide, but that the road and parks money be divided in a way by the county that assured each precinct at least $220 million — leaving another $220 million to be spent where needs are greatest.

“Everybody has a base level of revenue from this bond,” she said.

Despite that compromise, other doubts remain, Ramsey said, citing the lack of project specifics provided by county staff.

Here’s the Tuesday morning version of the story, which in turn references that 2015 bond package. A total of four propositions that year passed easily, with percentages ranging from 61 to 74. I don’t have a strong opinion at this time about how the funds should be divvied up – I don’t recall that particular debate coming up in the past, for what it’s worth, but Commissioners Court was a lot clubbier in those days – nor am I particularly worried about a detailed project list at this time. We should have one, to be sure, but I think most people don’t get too far into those details when casting their vote. It’s for law enforcement/roads/bridges/parks/flood control/etc etc etc? That’s likely enough info for most voters. We’ll see what details we get when the final ballot language is proposed.

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5 Comments

  1. In 2015, Harris County voters approved a $848 million dollar bond proposal, mostly for roads and mobility projects. In 2018, voters approved $2.5 billion dollars for flood control projects, of which $1.8 billion still hasn’t been spent. Also, as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, Harris County will soon receive $915 million in federal relief funds (see link below). In addition, Harris County government took in $144 million more funds last fiscal year (a 7.3% year-over-year gain). With property appraisals shooting up, Harris County will, once again, take in a record amount of revenue next year. In short, Harris County government doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending prioritization problem. For the past several years, Commissioners Court has been on a spending spree with our taxpayer dollars. From expanding the bloated county bureaucracy, to issuing questionable no-bid contracts, to creating numerous wasteful programs, to blowing millions of “surplus” toll road revenue, the unnecessary spending has been shameful. Aside from public safety and essential infrastructure items, every time I hear them say they intend to make an “investment” in something, I know another wasteful county program is about to be created or expanded. We need our county officials to be more fiscally responsible, streamline operations, and focus on providing CORE government services in an efficient manner. Is that really too much to ask?

    As residents struggle with inflation, Harris County government is already receiving record revenue/funding and then just wasting it. Instead of just generic categories, voters should demand specific details on exactly how Commissioners Court intends to spend this additional money before approving yet another billion-dollar+ bond (tax increase).

    https://budget.harriscountytx.gov/ARPA.aspx

  2. J says:

    Greg, selling supplements on your website is all you need to complete your MAGA profile.

  3. J,

    While funny, that’s not true (no MAGA here). My site has no right-wing conspiracy theories, no BS election fraud claims, no racist rants about immigrants or people of color, no praises for the Jan 6th Republican-led coup attempt, that nut-case Trump, Cancun-Cruz, or the indicted Ken Paxton. I just offer a moderate’s perspective on current issues/events. This year, like every year, I’ll be voting for most (but not all) of our Democratic candidates for elected Office, including Beto O”Rourke.

    Now, in Harris County, I am very concerned (and frustrated) that some of our Democratic officials continue to make a lot of unforced errors (e.g., scandals, no-bid contracts, wasteful spending). As a spectator, I would love to cheer when we score touchdowns, but end up jeering as we continue to fumble the ball. In this case, I think putting a $1.2 billion dollar bond issue in front of voters this November is extremely risky. Even in the best economic environment, raising taxes is never popular.

    You can dismiss my website as “MAGA” if you want, but it’s not true. Heck, some people would dismiss Kuff’s political blog has “radical left-wing”, but that wouldn’t be true, either. Like it or not, people can be conservative, moderate, or liberal and still be a Democrat.

  4. J says:

    You always parrot the latest right wing talking points, and running down real Democrats is all that you do in your posts here and on your imposter website. No cheering. I don’t believe for a minute you vote Democrat.

  5. J – Believe whatever you want, but I’m not the one posting anonymously here. Anyone who actually knows me knows I’ve been a moderate Democrat going all the way back to the Ann Richards days. For over 30 years, I’ve voted in the Democratic primaries and have strongly supported many centralist Democrats, including Clinton, Obama, and Biden. As far as my posts, it is what it is. I won’t say it’s sunny outside when it’s raining. Whether you are willing to admit it or not, some of our incumbent officials/judges that we elected back in 2018 have done a poor job and I probably won’t be voting for them again this time around. That doesn’t make me a Republican – it just makes me a disappointed Democrat.

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